Healthy Rolen looks to make a difference in '12

Healthy Rolen looks to make a difference in '12

Healthy Rolen looks to make a difference in '12
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The most important thing about Reds third baseman Scott Rolen's Spring Training is that he feels as good as he's looked at the plate.

For a soon-to-be 37-year-old who missed half of last season with an injured left shoulder, that's big because Rolen looms large in the equation for the Reds to contend.

"I feel good, without a doubt," Rolen said. "We're at the point where I want to stay feeling good. I'm not going to jam as many at-bats as I possibly can in, in a panic situation before Opening Day. I want to stay fresh and stay healthy to start the season."

Through 16 games this spring, Rolen is batting .297 with one home run and six RBIs. He was 1-for-3 with a single and two walks vs. the Cubs on Tuesday and played nine innings twice in three days.

Several of the outs made at the plate have been loud, too. Rolen has also played well defensively, which included a fine diving play on Tuesday.

"I'm not a results-oriented guy, but I never really had results at Spring Training that I can remember over the past 15 seasons. Not appreciable results," said Rolen, who turns 37 on April 4, one day before Opening Day. "I feel like I am seeing the ball. I am taking good at-bats and hitting and actually feel it. Sometimes you're swinging at Spring Training and hoping to get to a point where you take good at-bats. I'm seeing the ball well enough to get into some at-bats, concentrate and make some productive swings and at-bats."

Last season, Rolen batted .242 with five home runs and 36 RBIs in only 65 games. He missed three weeks early in the season with a strained left shoulder. His season was finished by July 22, when the same shoulder required surgery to remove bone spurs.

As Cincinnati finished a disappointing third in the National League Central with 79 wins, Rolen's absence left a large void.

"As a leader, it's tough to lead when you're not able to be out there," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It's tough on the leader and it's tough on the team. I saw how hard it was on Scotty the last couple of months of last year. You don't feel as assertive."

Persnickety about pulling his weight on the field, Rolen demands himself to be able to contribute daily. The Reds' record indicates that he does just that when he plays. The team's record is 127-96 in games he has started since his arrival via trade on July 31, 2010.

"I want to be available and accountable 162 times," Rolen said. "Even if you're off that day, I can enter the game and be accountable for whatever in that situation. Will I play every day, 162 games? I don't know. I think that would be a surprise to a lot of people. Can I be available for all 162? Yeah. That's a different animal.

"There are standards and goals that are unwritten and in front of you that everybody knows. I'm not trying to hit .280, .290 or .300. If I had hit .330 last year in 65 games, is that a good year? It's only 65 games, so it's not a good season. The 162 is the more important number."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.